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Educators Survey State of Higher Learning in Asia

A desire to produce well-rounded graduates, an influx of Chinese students, heartburn over university rankings: Such universal topics were among the subjects of discussion at the three-day annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Association for International Education in Seoul, South Korea, which ended March 20.

Several university presidents and vice chancellors from Asia lamented an overemphasis in higher education on graduates’ employability. There is too great a focus, they said, on imparting a narrow set of skills rather than on educating students broadly. Are modern universities, asked Inwon Choue, president of Kyung Hee University, in Seoul, “begetting academic excellence without soul?”

Flora Chia-I Chang, president of Tamkang University, a private institution in Taiwan, said that while professional preparation is important, so too are the liberal arts and extracurricular activities. At Tamkang, students are required to participate in at least one club, she said.

“Many universities emphasize professional education and forget character cultivation,” Ms. Chang said. “We want to prepare students to work professionally and live soundly.”

But Gordon W.H. Cheung, the association’s departing president and an associate vice president at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said universities in Asia often focused less on the arts and humanities because they felt pressure to concentrate on the sciences. That, he said, is because global university rankings include measures of scientific research in their calculations. In a region where institutions’ performance is a matter of national pride, universities are acutely aware of the rankings…

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(Source: The New York Times)

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